Menopause & Me
on Sep 25, 2022
You might think that the menopause means the end of a stellar sex life, or maybe it’s the opposite – and you believe that when your menstrual cycle stops your libido will rocket, opening the door for more frequent and spontaneous intimacy. For many, the reality settles some place between the two, but what exactly is the menopause, and how does this transition affect us and our sex lives?
The menopause represents significant changes in our hormonal balance, where our estrogen levels drop, our periods cease and the lifespan of our reproductive years comes to a natural end. Most often, this happens with age but in some cases, can be induced through surgery, illness or as a side-effect of treatment for certain conditions.
Typically, the menopause isn’t diagnosed or officially recognized as such until 12 consecutive months have passed without a period, but the signs and symptoms of this inevitable life phase can start much sooner.
So, what are these signs? What might we experience, and how might they make us feel?
Enter the peri-menopause
The stage before the main event, where our bodies begin the transition through to full menopause. Our hormone levels fluctuate, our egg production starts to decline and some symptoms might become noticeable to us. For most people, this happens from the age of around 40, but it varies in timescales and intensity for each person.
During the peri-menopause, we’re still fertile, although we may start to experience irregularities to our monthly cycles, missing one here and there, or having two periods come at once. Our breasts can feel tender, and the vagina can feel less sensitive and more dry than usual.
The changes in our hormone levels can affect us in more ways than just physical though - it might be that we feel unexpectedly anxious, our mood waivers in rollercoaster pattern, or that our desire to have and initiate intimacy is lesser than usual. Although for some, sex is still firmly front of the agenda - even during those pre-menopause months.
“I've not experienced any lack of libido. In fact, I reckon my sex drive has increased. Yes, vaginal dryness is quite common, but I like to use plenty of lube anyway as it seems to increase sensation, so haven't really noticed any problems. Personally, I reckon that keeping the juices flowing, so to speak, by regular masturbation helps, a sort of use it or lose it approach, and plenty of sex if available. I can't seem to get enough sex these days!” - Lovehoney forum member.
The next chapter
Once your last period has come and gone, you are officially in the menopause. Although you may not know this straight away. While this is the second phase of the menopause journey, it is the one people associate the menopause with the most, but not all of us really understand what it is.
For many of us, sex and intimacy changes quite significantly here. Some of us will be relieved to no longer experience our usual PMS symptoms like migraines or pelvic pain, having given our monthly cycles a one-way-ticket to the land of no return.
This means we feel we can be more adventurous in the bedroom, or more relaxed as we worry less about discomfort and focus more on enjoyment.
Look in the right places and there’s definitely a few positive perks to the menopause.
But it’s not plain sailing for everyone. For those of us who have always appreciated our youthful appearance, this is also where the natural tell-tale signs of aging can begin to surface. Sometimes our weight distribution changes, or we can find ourselves having trouble with sleep due to night sweats and insomnia.
As we’re no longer fertile, we might experience emotions such as grief at the loss of our childbearing years or feel a drop in our self-esteem and ability due to that ever elusive ‘brain fog’
The menopause experience is different for everyone, and in some cases it can affect several aspects of our lives, including our relationships and careers too.
End of an era
Through the woods and into the forest, the post-menopause phase signifies the end of an era. Often, by now, most of our initial ‘shock menopause symptoms’ have started to fade into the ether. Some people have claimed this time to feel much like a ‘rebirth’, or a time to enjoy life in different ways.
We’re no longer restricted by our calendars, planning date nights and trips away on the premise of our next monthly cycle. For many of us, the ‘brain fog’ and memory lapses also become less noticeable, and our physical symptoms start to subside.
Does intimacy return like it did long before the menopause reared it’s head? For a lot of us, absolutely – and even better still! Thousands of post-menopausal people are enjoying a healthier sex life than ever. Others are discovering new and exciting ways to explore their sexual fantasies and preferences.
For some, it may be a case of accepting that sex doesn’t and likely won’t feel like it did once before and becoming more focused on the emotional layers of love-making, which can still bring about a deeper closeness with our partners.
Menopause & my personal experience
The menopause is an intimate and personal experience for every one of us. Knowing each other’s journey, however different from our own they may be, is exactly how we build strong support communities and educate one another on what the menopause can really mean, look and feel like. Here, Lovehoney employees and customers share our personal experiences of the menopause.
Menopause & my health
“Constipation! (magnesium supplements are now a nightly necessity), hot flushes, weight gain, aching joints, and – weirdly – half of each eyebrow has now thinned out, so I paint the rest on (now you know!). I’m an extremely patient person, but even I have been known to become irritable since menopause hit. My bones have started cracking so much!! Thankfully, in terms of weight gain, the menopause has brought with it a complete lack of giving a sh** about what people think, so I’m not really too preoccupied about it, in terms of vanity – more in terms of health. But the dry hair really annoys me!” - Traci, ERP, LH
Menopause & my intimacy
“Hard to say, as my marriage has been on the rocks for a while, but I have no ‘urges’ towards my spouse or anyone else (possibly due to family traumas in the last 18 months). Masturbation frequency hasn’t altered much... I certainly crave/seek/need intimacy (touching, being held) less than I did, which is weird for such a demonstrative and tactile person like me, though I do find myself requiring more ‘stillness’ with loved ones in my life than I did. Sexual fantasy hasn’t changed in any way, shape or form.” - Anon
“My sex drive and libido hasn’t changed in the way of still wanting to be intimate, but my confidence has taken a hit in all areas since hitting menopause. I feel conscious about how my body has changed, from carrying more weight to the surgical scars I’ve been left with and this has definitely made me more reserved in being intimate with my partner.” - Chelle, Editorial Content Exec, Lovehoney.
Menopause & my work
“Although I’ve never had a factually brilliant memory, I do find my memory failing more often since menopause, especially for names, which is such a drawback professionally and can cause huge embarrassment (thank goodness for name badges!). Menopause is so intrinsically linked to ageing, that it’s hard to say how much impact it’s had on work performance, because I just don’t type as fast as most people half my age... I suspect I have a little more self-doubt than I used to.” - Traci, ERP, LH
Menopause and my outlook on life
“Apart from the hot flushes every day (I carry an electric hand-fan everywhere now, and find alcohol makes them much more frequent), I find the whole thing SO liberating! I am not intimidated by anyone, and I speak my mind at will, without malice but because I simply feel life is too short to beat about the bush. I’ve also become a matronly figure who mothers everyone with no sexual motive, but a genuine spiritual love for (and desire to nurture) upcoming generations. I have started shedding friends that I don’t have time for or that bring no real presence, value or positivity to my life.” - Traci, ERP, LH
Menopause & the future
“I am not that scared of the future regarding menopause, but the joint problems are a cause for concern. I like the transformation it has had on my mindset – I feel such lack of concern now for things that pre-occupied me when I was younger – it's actually very liberating. The whole subject needs much greater exposure, and I totally recommend watching ‘Good luck to you, Leo Grande’, staring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack.”- Traci, ERP, LH.
We’re sharing more insights, experiences and knowledge about the menopause, including how the menopause impacts our health, how it can also affect our partners and which toys and tips people find best during the menopause. You can also head to our forum where you can find threads and conversations about the menopause, or even start your own.